Ask Dr Mark

Ask Dr Mark
Game Dreams

Mark J. Kline | 18 Nov 2010 19:32
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While I initially enjoyed the fact that my mind was churning about WoW constantly, eventually I became quite irritated by it. My ability to attend and focus on other things was often disrupted and I began to feel the game had somehow abducted my mind--that I couldn't easily free myself from images related to the game even when I wanted or needed to. This irritation ultimately helped me quit the game. I remember wondering if I had become some slavish drone of WoW, compelled to think and do as the game required, and I wanted to prove to myself that I had the strength and determination to break out of this trance.

Whether intense mental absorption in gaming becomes a problem for you or not, it's clear today's games have tremendous potential to penetrate our psyches. Our experiences within videogames tap into our capacity for mental representation and are stored in our minds just like other particularly vivid experiences

No surprise then, that game themes and images appear in our dreams, and seem to become a part of the language of our minds. I mean this in two ways: our minds may express or communicate something through the metaphors and images of a game--as in this dream -- and we may actually come to relate to the world through the language of a game. With gaming clients, I often find it easier to make a point if I present an idea using the idiom of their game, or if I compare a struggle in real life to an experience in the game. For example, studying for a test is like farming materials for raid flasks--dull and boring, but necessary if you want to succeed.

So you could say we have minds that are prepared, neurobiologically and genetically, to represent intense, evocative experiences mentally, and to continually re-experience these representations through dreams, memories, automatic thoughts, and active cognitive rehearsal. This can be part of gaming's strong appeal, and what draws us into gaming worlds, and it can also become a source of trouble.

Dr. Mark Kline needs to write his columns in a larger font as a result of squinting at video games. Have a question for Dr. Mark? Send it to askdrmark@escapistmag.com. Your identity will remain confidential.

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